Thursday April 20th, 2000
Q: What are your thoughts after the first three races?
Jenson Button: The season has certainly begun reasonably well for me. Australia was a mixed experience given my free practice accident and then qualifying 21st. The race, however, was far more positive and when you start 21st on the grid you donít expect to be in 6th place after 40 laps. I knew I could move up the field, but I really didnít know what I could achieve in my first race. Obviously when the engine gave up the ghost I was a bit disappointed, but overall I was pleased with my debut performance. In Brazil, I was happy with qualifying in the top ten. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team did a great job at Interlagos. Both Ralf and I finished the race in 6th and 7th respectively, but Coulthardís disqualification moved us both up a place. Many people have since congratulated me on scoring my first ever point, albeit at the age of 20, but I didnít feel a great deal of pride given that it was scored through somebody elseís misfortune. Hopefully, I will be able to score a few points myself this year. In San Marino, however, I found things a little harder. Gerhard Berger briefed me on the importance of exploiting the kerbs, but it took me a while to appreciate just how important they are at Imola. The track is also quite bumpy and narrow and overall, it was quite a challenge for me. The race was disappointing for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, but we must expect an uphill task given our new package. Our aim in 2000 is to compete in the mid-field and finish races. Given that we have scored points at the opening two races, I think we have done a good job so far.
Q: Given the enormous level of media interest in you, isnít it hard to sometimes keep focused?
Button: No, not at all. I knew before I came into F1 that there is as much work outside the cockpit as there is in it. The PR side is now as much a part of the business as the racing itself and so far, I wouldnít say that it is bothering me. In fact, most of the things I have done have been pretty good fun and are all part of the learning curve in F1. The reaction in Britain has been a little surprising, I must say. At Silverstone testing last week, it was weird to see hundreds of fans waiting for me all day, but their enthusiasm has fired me up even more in the run up to Sundayís race.
Q: How do feel about your chances at the British Grand Prix?
Button: Well, we must be careful not to raise expectations too high. I keep saying this, I know, but this is a new partnership in the first of a five-year programme. We mustnít expect miracles overnight and our aim in 2000 is to learn, develop and strengthen in an effort to compete at the higher end of the grid next year. Our recent testing at Silverstone has been OK and the FW22 feels very well balanced around Silverstone. WilliamsF1 has produced a capable car that performs well in both wet and dry conditions, so the weather doesnít really bother me. Points, of course, would be nice, but thereís a lot of strong competition around us.
Q: What is your relationship with Ralf Schumacher like?
Button: Very good. We work well together and his experience is very valuable to a rookie like myself. There are many areas of set up, for example, where Ralf can and does lend his experience. The BMW WilliamsF1 Team has strengths in every area and I feed off all of them. Ralf is one such element and our working relationship is productive.
Q: Some have described you as the next Mansell and Hill. Does this just add to the pressure?
Button: Not really, no. Iíd like to be known as the first Jenson Button, not the next Mansell or Hill. Iím putting myself under enough pressure without others doing it for me, but I suppose thatís what you expect in Formula One. Everybodyís expectations are high, especially when you drive for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team. This is, after all, the most successful constructor in F1 and my presence here has probably added to the hype. F1 and hype go hand in hand, - thereís no getting away from it. I tend to focus on the job at hand and avoid getting too caught up in peopleís opinions and thoughts. The only people that I take notice of are those around me in the team Ė the people that really matter, in other words.
Q: With the world looming at your feet, surely both failure and success must prey on your mind?
Button: The pressures are mainly those you put on yourself. Iím just facing the season with the attitude that Iíll do the best that I can. I certainly donít have any regrets. Getting a drive with the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is such an achievement for me I donít think anyone can understand how much I am looking forward to the next race and the season ahead.
Q: What is it like working with the likes of Frank Williams, Patrick Head and Gerhard Berger?
Button: Frank and Patrick have a track record that speaks for itself. They are, for me, the most experienced and committed men in the business. I have learned a great deal from them both, but I suspect itís the tip of the iceberg. They have a wealth of experience which, compared to other new drivers in F1, I am very fortunate to have. Gerhard brings a different element of experience and his knowledge as a former driver offers me yet another insight into this business. He always briefs me on tracks, driving techniques and makes me think differently about how to apply myself over the course of a race weekend.
Q: What are your predictions on where the BMW WiliamsF1 Team will finish the season?
Button: Iím not making any predictions for this season. The most important thing for the BMW WilliamsF1 Team is to compete strongly and learn in preparation for next year. The partners and sponsors involved expect the highest and given WilliamsF1ís and BMWís track record, it is no surprise to see them aiming for the highest level. This isnít going to happen overnight and we must all be realistic about our first season goals and targets. We will inevitably suffer hiccups, but thatís all part of our learning curve.
Q: And what about your learning curve - are you climbing it well?
Button: Yeah, I think so. Itís obviously a little premature to making judgements on my rate of success, but so far so good. There are so many areas in F1 that a driver needs to understand and grasp, but this is the perfect environment within which to generate that understanding. Every driver has highs and lows and I expect the going to get much tougher as the season gets longer. The main thing is to remain focused and do your best.